Monday, March 21, 2011

Good, clean dirt

That cow is a bit distracting, isn't it?

I love freshly-tilled earth -- it holds the promise of good things to come. 

The villagers spend long days out in the gardens and orchards right now. Preparation for spring planting is an arduous process since nothing is done by machine. They till the ground by hand with long-handled spades. It's tough, back-breaking, blister-causing work. But the returns are well-worth it. The food that is grown in these plots of land will feed the families for the next year.

There is nothing like the look and smell of the turned-up dirt. The colors of the dirt are so much more than just brown. Rich hues of purple mix into deep ebony shadows highlighted by lavender swatches. You can see the vitality in that earth. And the smell -- it is the very essence of all that is alive and growing. Pungent, damp, vivacious -- especially just after a rain shower. The affirmation of new life tickles the nostrils of any who breathe in the earthy scent.

The promise of good things to come..... that's how I choose to view my students. Right now they are like the tilled fields -- not yet producing anything productive, but the preparation is being done for a good growing season which will yield a fruitful harvest. 

And I think I'm the spade. I'm digging up what was allowed to lie fallow, breaking apart the clumps of hard ground, dislodging the unnecessary debris to be discarded, transforming the unproductive expanse of land into fertile soil where good things can grow -- good things like critical thinking skills, analytical prowess, logical reasoning -- not just knowledge, but useful application of knowledge. These kids have knowledge in English, but getting them to break out of the memorized tracts that have been plowed in their minds by habitual recitation is just as difficult work as physically tilling up the ground for spring planting. What is knowledge that can't be applied? It's sort of like dumping all your seed corn into one hole. Yes, a few stalks will grow -- there will be some external evidence that corn was planted, but will the harvest be plentiful? Certainly not! Nowhere near as plentiful as it could have been if the corn had been applied to the whole planting area. That's my work this spring. While the fields and gardens are being physically turned-up, I am figuratively turning-up the fertile ground of my students' minds. I know that some won't tend to their mental gardens well -- and their harvest will reflect their negligence. But others who have gained a taste for the harvest will carefully cultivate the seeds that my co-teachers and I plant. They understand that the effort they put into their mental growth now will yield a lifetime of opportunity.

So, let's dig in -- there's work to be done!

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